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How covering a topical event such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games without infringing reserved rights?

Sporting events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games or the Euro are so visible that promotional communication by economic operators around these events is highly regulated, in order to safeguard the monopoly held by the organizers over the communication and exploitation of their events.

What about the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Any infringement of the monopoly held by the organizers of the Olympic and Paralympic Games can be prosecuted on two grounds:

the use of the event’s distinctive signs by an economic operator who is not an official partner can be sanctioned under the French Sports Code (article 141-5 for the French National Olympic and Sports Committee and article 141-7 for the French Paralympic and Sports Committee); and

unauthorized reproduction of trademarks registered by the organizers constitutes an act of infringement punishable under the provisions of the French Intellectual Property Code.

For example: the Olympic rings, the Olympic motto (“Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”), the Olympic anthem, the Olympic flame, medals, the host city and vintage (“Paris2024”), sports pictograms, mascots, etc.

Beware of ambush marketing

Certain behaviors may be sanctioned even though they do not constitute a direct infringement of the organizers’ monopoly.

Ambush marketing, defined by jurisprudence as any practice consisting of placing oneself in the wake of an event in order to associate one’s image with it, without having paid the price of the partnership, is liable to engage the civil liability of its perpetrator, justifying the award of damages on the basis of the general law of article 1240 of the Civil Code.

Through its misconduct, the economic operator indeed takes advantage of the sporting event’s influence to promote its own products and/or services, even though it is not a partner in the event.

In practice, what kind of behavior can be sanctioned ?

Jurisprudence has made it possible to identify cases of sanctionable behavior. In practice, it is often the accumulation of circumstances that justifies the condemnation of an economic operator.

Sanctioned effect : seeking illegitimate association with the sporting event.

Objective : to protect the investment made by the event’s organizers and partners, while ensuring a fair balance with freedom of communication.

  • Simple reference to a sport or the world of sport: Yes
  • Use of the distinctive signs of the Olympic Games: No
  • Use of unregistered signs evocative of the event : At risk
  • Communication about a partnership with an individual athlete: At risk
  • Use of “partnership” vocabulary: No
  • Proximity of the communication to the sporting event: At risk
  • Organization of a competition linked to the sporting event: A risk

Caution is therefore advised on this subject !


Gaëlle Bloret-Pucci

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